Thursday 23 November 2017

Arms a winner by going out on limb

Arms (Nintendo Switch) ★★★★★ Age: 7+

Arms for Nintendo Switch
Arms for Nintendo Switch
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Fighting games act as the ultimate test of reactions - granting you what seems like just milliseconds to counter an incoming fist from an agile opponent. But Arms measures its responses in whole seconds, which will be a revelation to anyone intimidated by the over-competitive fighting scene.

Arms does for fighters what stablemate Splatoon did for shooters in 2015 - making the genre accessible and cartoonish fun. The infectious samba tune that bursts into life on the menu screen sets the tone for the game's ambitions: to make you smile as you punch out your rivals' lights in outrageous fashion.

Each of the 10 fighters in the roster can choose two fists from a catalogue of 30 that fit on the end of your comically extended arms. The fists vary in ability to include homing attacks, lasers and the like.

That's where Arms' slow-mo sensibility comes into play. Instead of rapid-fire flurries, you must judge the right moment to unleash a fist, watch as it spirals towards the opponent, hits home and then languidly retracts.

It's even more amusing when you use the Switch's motion controls - clutching the Joy-Con pads like boxing gloves and mimicking the action enables you to also throw curling punches. What you gain in variety, you lose in precision, though.

Arms shares the DNA of Splatoon in that it launches with a relatively thin package - not much for single players and relatively few multiplayer modes and characters. But Nintendo pledges to flesh out the cast and content in the coming months.

Nex Machina: Death Machine

(PS4/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 7+

You're not just imagining it - everyone is out to get you.

Nex Machina springs from the fevered imaginations of developer Housemarque and arcade genius Eugene Jarvis. Housemarque made its name expertly riffing on the chaotic enemy-filled playfields of Jarvis's seminal 1980s work in Robotron 2084 and Defender.

Now the two join forces to smash it out of the park in Nex Machina, a twin-stick arcade shooter that plunks the player into crowded arenas brimming with angry enemies. Most make an immediate beeline for you while the rest target a coterie of lone humans stranded around the level awaiting rescue.

So the set-up is familiar, remixing Robotron and Defender. But the execution is peerless. Scenery fizzes with artistic detail, survival feels like a series of near misses with death and there's a fabulous 3D effect as you warp from one stage to the next.

It's instinctive, it's feral, it's Jarvis at his most frenzied.

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